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US Treasury Launches Anti-Money Laundering Working Group With Middle East And North Africa

by Glen Shapiro, LawAndTax-News.com, New York

22 December 2005


The US Treasury Department earlier this month hosted the inaugural meeting of a new international private sector outreach working group that unites public and private sector entities – both foreign and domestic – in an effort to strengthen defenses against terrorist financing and money laundering in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

"By engaging directly with the international private sector, we can help facilitate the enhanced development and implementation of effective anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures, particularly in regions of strategic importance and jurisdictions that may lack fully functional AML/CFT regimes," explained Patrick O'Brien, the Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.

The Middle East/North Africa Financial Sector Working Group (MENA FSWG), which held its initial meeting last Friday, will focus on raising awareness and strengthening implementation of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) practices and programs within the regions' financial industries, particularly within the banking sectors.

"We want to help our private sector counterparts at home and abroad implement coordinated and targeted anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing programs that are consistent with international standards," O'Brien added.

Notably, the MENA FSWG plans to draft an action plan to bolster ongoing efforts to develop controls to detect and disrupt terrorist financing and money laundering and foster private sector information exchange between the regions. The MENA FSWG will put this plan into action by coordinating a series of regional AML/CFT conferences and workshops. Through such activities and follow-up, the Working Group hopes to build a core understanding and develop expertise in the financial sector across the MENA region.

The MENA FSWG is currently comprised of representatives from the MENA Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is dedicated to implementing the FATF 40+9 Recommendations on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing across the Middle East/North Africa region; the Union of Arab Banks (UAB), which has a membership of over 300 Arab financial institutions; the Arab Bankers Association of North America (ABANA), a private sector association comprised of members from the financial services industry in the Middle East and the United States; and interested parties from the U.S. banking community. The Treasury Department and Federal Reserve participate in the MENA FSWG on a consultative and facilitative basis.


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